February is American Heart Month, and it is used to highlight the importance of cardiovascular health. This Heart Month, a focus is placed on encouraging Americans, between the ages of 35 and 54, to take meaningful action to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This initiative, the “Live to the Beat” campaign, comes from a collaboration between Million Hearts and the CDC Foundation.
While CVD increasingly affects working-age adults in the United States, Black adults are disproportionately affected and have more CVD-related health consequences. Black Americans are twice as likely to die from heart disease than White Americans, making it twice as important to make healthy lifestyle choices.
“Live to the Beat” Campaign
All at-risk individuals are encouraged to address key risk factors like high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and hypertension. Through health practices, the risk of CVD and stroke can be lowered.
A person can prevent high blood pressure by:
- Making informed food decisions. Physicians endorse an intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with diets rich in potassium, fiber, and protein. It is also recommended to avoid sodium and saturated fats, when possible. Adhering to these guidelines has been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce the risks of CVD and stroke.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. When an individual is overweight, they are more likely to have high blood pressure. Physicians are able to determine a goal weight, usually by calculating body mass index or using waist and hip measurements to assess body fat.
- Exercising. The average American should exercise for at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which equates to around 30 minutes for 5 days per week. Examples of moderate-intensity exercises include cycling and walking at a brisk pace or moderate incline.
- Getting enough sleep. The amount a person sleeps affects the heart and blood vessels. Not obtaining a proper amount of sleep has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
- Limiting alcohol intake and not smoking. Both smoking and drinking alcohol increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Individuals should quit smoking and drink no more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day, to reduce the risk of CVD.
Heart attacks and strokes are serious medical emergencies. Therefore, it’s important to be able to identify symptoms in order to obtain medical attention as quickly as possible.
Heart attack symptoms involve pain, pressure, or squeezing in the chest that lasts longer than a few minutes or comes in waves. The person may also experience shortness of breath or pain in one or both arms, the back, jaw, neck, or stomach. Symptoms may also include nausea, lightheadedness, or a cold sweat.
Stroke symptoms can be identified by remembering the acronym FAST: face-drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911. Additionally, a person may also experience numbness, confusion, difficulty seeing or walking, or a severe headache.
This February, take command by making active choices to benefit your heart health.